In 2017 the AICPA made some serious changes to the CPA exam. They changed the content covered on the exam, the exam structure itself, and the grading methods used. Since 2013, the AICPA has been researching how to restructure the exam to focus on higher-skillsets and test candidates for logic and thought patterns instead of rote memorization. They will implement these magnificent changes in April 2017 according to the new AICPA Blueprints.
Let’s take a look at what changed and what you will need to do in order to prepare yourself for the new 2017 exam.
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What is Changing on the CPA Exam
CPA Exam Content Changes
The new exam still covers the same topics and concepts that previous exams covered, but it will focus on different ways of testing your understanding of them. The old exam only tested your memory, understanding, and ability to apply concepts. The new exam tests candidates’ skills in evaluation and analysis.
The thought process behind this change is that candidates should not only understand the topics covered on the exam, they should also be able to think logically, reason through ideas, and analyze concepts rather than simply regurgitating facts for a study guide.
Here’s an explanation of the two new higher skills being tested on the exam.
Each one of these skill sets is tested in the following exam areas.
|Question Type||Current CPA Exam||2017 CPA Exam|
|Multiple-Choice Questions||Remembering & Understanding||Remembering & Understanding, Application|
|Task-Based Simulations||Application||Application, Analysis, Evaluation|
So how does this relate to each section? Well, each section incorporates these higher skills in different ways. Here’s a summary of how each section will change to integrate the new testing methods.
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CPA Exam Structure Changes
The new exam changes the entire structure of each section. The number of multiple choice questions changes along with the number of tasked-based simulations for each section. The allotted time for each section also changes. Here’s a summary of each section’s new structure:
|AUD Exam Section||2016 CPA Exam||2017 CPA Exam|
|BEC Exam Section||2016 CPA Exam||2017 CPA Exam|
|FAR Exam Section||2016 CPA Exam||2017 CPA Exam|
|REG Exam Section||2016 CPA Exam||2017 CPA Exam|
As you can see, the new exam is reducing the size of the multiple-choice sections and increasing the size of the task-based simulations. Since most candidates have more problems with simulations than multiple-choice questions, this isn’t a real good thing. 🙁
CPA Exam Scoring and Weighting Changes
With more emphasis on higher-level skills and task-based simulations, it only makes sense that they would change the way the test is weighted. The new exam favors simulations much more than they did in the past. Here’s a break down of each section.
|Exam Section||2016 CPA Exam||2017 CPA Exam|
Notice the new simulations section of BEC? Yikes!
CPA Exam Time Limit Changes
The time limits for two sections have changed slightly as well. AUD and FAR limits have remained the same, but BEC and REG have been extended by an hour each. Now all four parts have a 4-hour time limit. Here’s a summary.
|Exam Section||2016 CPA Exam||2017 CPA Exam|
|AUD||4 hrs||4 hrs|
|BEC||3 hrs||4 hrs|
|FAR||4 hrs||4 hrs|
|REG||3 hrs||4 hrs|
New this year is a mandatory 15-minute break in the middle of each section. This break won’t count against your testing time as a normal bathroom break would. Instead, it’s designed to give candidates a break from the exam and catch their breath. I guess the thought is that candidates will be thinking too hard with the new higher-skill testing and they will need a break.
Exam Cost Changes
All costs and fees vary among states, but you should expect to see a $20 increase in the price of both BEC and REG because they are now longer exams. Isn’t that lovely?
Is the New CPA Exam Harder?
I hate to be a downer, but yes it is. Candidates typically have more problems with the task-based simulation portion of the exam and now that portion is worth more and covers more topics. It will also require a different way of thinking.
All of the topics on the exam will be the same, but the way it’s tested will be more difficult. Don’t get worried, though. You just need to prepare it.
How to Prepare for CPA Exam Changes
The best thing that you can do to prepare for the new exam is getting an up-to-date CPA review course and start studying. All of the review course companies have redesigned their prep courses with these new AICPA changes in mind. Pick out a course that works for you and start studying now.